BERLIN – The town’s police department has bolstered its force with the addition of a second K-9.
Cyrus, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois, joined the Berlin Police Department in September. The K-9, who has been partnered with Officer Aaron Titerence, will help with everything from drug detection to crowd control.
“The K-9 program is a great asset because it provides added tools to look for narcotics or to track,” Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing said.
Titerence, who’s been with the department for two years, says working with a K-9 has been one of his career goals.
“I grew up around dogs,” he said. “I like having the extra tool at my disposal. They can save your life.”
Knowing Titerence was interested in working with a K-9, Downing said when the opportunity came up to get the department a second dog at a discounted rate he advised the town to take it. Though the department had one K-9, Four-year-old Luke, his handler already said that would be his last dog. In addition, while Luke cost the town $12,000 and required his handler to attend weeks of training in Ohio, Cyrus cost $8,000 and came with handler training in Wicomico County.
“We pride ourselves on seeing opportunity,” Downing said.
He said that along with the skills a second K-9 brought to the department, it was also a way to boost morale and provide officers with a different type of experience.
To prepare to work with Cyrus, Titerence spent four weeks training with him at Delmarva K-9, the Wicomico County facility run by J.C. Richardson. Titerence said his lessons started with basic care and moved on to drug detection and tracking. Cyrus has the ability to sniff out marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.
“They’re the ones we see the most,” Titerence said.
As most of the K-9’s work will occur during traffic stops, Titerence was instructed on how to have the dog scan vehicles for drug odors. When Cyrus detects the smell of a drug, he’ll do a passive alert.
“He will sit,” Titerence said. “The sitting is not necessarily the alert though. The alert is watching his behavior change. Seeing the change in his breathing, his stance. Each dog is different which is why you need training.”
Titerence said Cyrus would prove useful to the department as drug trafficking continued to increase, particularly along Route 113. Along with drug detection, Cyrus will be used to help with crowd control, apprehension and tracking. He’ll also be available if there are occasions when other area law enforcement agencies need back up.
“They’re a good deterrent for violence,” Titerence said, adding that suspects might be willing to fight an officer but weren’t willing to take on a K-9. “If they see a dog it immediately calms everybody down.”
To hone their skills, Cyrus and Titerence will go to training sessions twice a month. While the sessions will keep Cyrus sharp, Titerence says the K-9 will never forget what he’s learned.
“You could run him a year later without doing drug work and he’s going to know how to do it,” he said.
And though the Belgian Malinois knows his job, he also knows how to relax. When he’s not on duty, he’s at home with Titerence’s family and their pet German Shepherd.
“That’s his decompression,” Titerence said. “He becomes a part of the family.”